Friday, March 24, 2017

First Trip to China

Shanghai selfie with greenery
Last weekend I journeyed to China, Shanghai to be exact, for the first time (to both). Prior to the trip my only knowledge of China was the Beijing airport. And that's never been a positive or a comfortable experience. That proved to yet be true this trip as there were no direct flights from UB to Shanghai and I had to connect through Beijing (of course). On the way there I had exactly 1 hour and 45 minutes between landing and take off. Thank goodness I didn't have to pee....because I was either in motion, or in line (immigration, transfer, security) the entire time. To make it that much more entertaining, I de-boarded a plane in the International Terminal (E), walked through Immigration (had necessary Visa), then caught the tram to terminal C to make my Domestic Transfer. Had to again go through Security (with another document check just before), then walked to my gate where I immediately walked down the gangway. Oh wait...then down some stairs to where we were herded onto a bus and then driven BACK to Terminal E where we climbed stairs to another gangway to board our plan. It was literally just a few gates down from where I de-boarded!!! And may I add....every line in Beijing is LONG. Bottom line: They need to employ more staff. 

In Shanghai, the Hongqaio Airport was FAR more accommodating and properly staffed. On arrival there were clear signs on where to go to get a taxi. I think there may have been 500 people in line (perhaps a slight exaggeration...but not by much), but it moved swiftly and efficiently. I landed before 10 pm and was in  my hotel by 11, and it was a 22 km and 30 minute drive (with the traffic we encountered). 

Egg hardboiled in tea...on the breakfast buffet
I am ignorant when it comes to China. I wanted to get my phone out and take a picture at the airport....and then second guessed myself and thought..."oh, will someone confiscate it then?" Yes...I recognize the silliness and stupidity of that fear. I was in a foreign land and didn't know at all what to expect. Bad on me for not researching or inquiring. :(

What can I say? Well, I hated not having access to my email (all my email is through Gmail--including my WORK account, we are a Google School for goodness sake!) or to Facebook (proper or Messenger). Honestly, it felt like I went to another dimension or something. I had no cell messenger. Thank goodness I thought to tell Enji to add WeChat so that I COULD communicate with home. WeChat is *basically* China's version of Facebook. I did a little research.....and yep, it was developed by Chinese citizens. Okay, I is it about keeping the money in China? OR is it about control and censorship? According to this Reuters article, Google products of every sort have been blocked. There's even a site dedicated to the censorship, analyzes and discusses censorship in China. Now....I've only been to China once and for 3 days. Did I survive my unplugged time....of course!  I have some new-made friends that live in China and love it--most of them are married to Chinese men (visit WWAM Bam to learn more--I'm a contributor)....but I have to say, I hated not having access to the tools of my life and existence. I could not communicate with my husband. I couldn't share pictures for my mom or dad or siblings to see. And frankly, that pissed me off! I have a VPN....but not one that is China Grade, apparently. 

When I spoke with my fellow educators and one that taught in China--the ones attending the AP training that took me to China--they explained this was China's control over the poor people. Anyone who has any money has a VPN and can have any online life they desire. So....that's disturbing!! Right? 

Skyline view from the Bund
The complaints out of me....I will say that I had the opportunity to venture into downtown, or rather to waterfront Shanghai, on Saturday evening. I was so appreciative of the fellow educators who teach in China for inviting me along. They knew the small words and cultural nuances necessary for a night out. I was dazed and say the least. I cannot begin to express how I felt on the pedestrian street that took us to the Bund. I was surrounded by HORDES of people--mostly Asian, certainly some foreigners--and overcome by the lights (think Vegas on steroids) and sounds. It was consuming and staggering. UB is the largest city I've ever lived in at 1.4M. Shanghai is at 24M. OMG. Can you even imagine!?!?? To put it in perspective, NYC is 8.6M. I've not yet visited NYC. I'd like to. 

I will wrap up by saying....the AP training was good. I enjoyed talking with fellow educators--I was in a class of about 31 and my table had two women teaching in China and a man teaching in Tokyo--we got along famously.  I am beyond THRILLED to take on this challenge and forgot how much I LOVE teaching literature and writing. I am hard at work reading (currently tackling A Farewell to Arms) and preparing for the fall. My flight home was uneventful. But I will leave you with this strange observation. What kind of boob job did this grandma get? It's from the take off and landing video that Air China shows before takeoff. She's sitting next to an elderly white-haired man. I meant to get a picture of the young woman in the video...she makes Barbie look symmetrical and balanced!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment